Last week, Le Bon Marché celebrated la rentrée and the beginning of their “Paris!” exhibition with a night out with the legendary Régine, crispy baguette treats and bal musette dancing until the wee hours. A moment of suspended disbelief in a city hard hit over the past year. “Une exposition capitale,” said a number of my French friends.
Due to run from September 2nd to October 15, the “Paris!” exhibition explores the French capital with the same fine-tooth comb that made their Brazil, Japan or Brooklyn showcases such hits in previous years. For many, Paris is all glitz and glamour. The choice of Christian Louboutin as the guest of honor of “Paris!”, complete with a replica of the iconic Vero-Dodat passage, right down to the marble tiles painstakingly replicated in carpeting, certainly contributed to polishing the shine of the event. But buying director Jennifer Cuvellier and her team embarked on a mission to reveal Paris’ true secrets: rare crafts such as hand-printed wallpapers with Antoinette Poisson (their collaboration with Marin Montagut is something to be seen), fresh-faced successes such as Sezane or Pigalle, true fusion with Maison Chateau Rouge (their Paris-printed wax fabrics are out of this world) or even the off-beat culinary delights of Jay & Joy’s non-dairy cheeses. A multitude of other brands, among which Moynat, Tila March, Paris Saint Germain (as in the football club, a fashionable choice these days) Maison Kitsuné and many other well-implanted brands contributed capsule collections or special items. Personal favorites? The map-printed Repetto shoes, The Volon’s Eiffel tower adorned bag, the range of uber-luxe hotel goodies imagined for Les Bains and La Note Parisienne candles, each scent evoking a particular arrondissement.
For a city that prides itself on its scintillance, Paris has experienced rather lackluster months in the wake of its 2015 annus horribilis and its bleed-through in Brussels earlier this year. Suspended from the Eiffelian structure and next to the Putman escalators, bobble-headed figures by Fred Le Chevalier seemed to swing to the beat of the dancers below. Their slow sway had a devil-may-care allure. The British have perfected the stiff upper lip but the French fall back on good old fêtes to alleviate fears for the future. This celebration of the City of Light, planned long before its shining image was besmirched by turmoil, “Paris!” celebrates all neighborhoods with equal fervor. From the stately 7th to the cosmopolitan Goutte d’Or, from swinging SoPi to the sleepy 16th, all came together as a celebration of life at its most kaleidoscopic, a statement of unbroken spirit. Paris sera toujours Paris, thankfully.